If wondering whether you can use just any primer under your powder foundation is one of many important things keeping you up at night, then you’re in the right place — and Steve Kassajikian, Global Makeup Artist for Urban Decay Cosmetics, is here to set your mind at ease. (At least that chaotic corner of it.) “Since primer is made to help smooth out your pores and create an even surface for the makeup to sit on, most primers can be used for both liquid and powder foundation,” Kassajikian tells Bustle. Case closed, sort of. According to Kassajikian, the best primers for powder foundation aren’t overly mattifying, which can make your skin look patchy. Instead, they’re “slightly hydrating while still giving you that silky-soft grip.”
It’s important to take your skin type and texture into consideration when shopping for a primer, though, especially because powder foundations can be relatively unforgiving if your skin hasn't been prepped correctly. Dry skin types; look for hydrating primers; oily skin types, grab something that'll absorb oil without being overly drying; and if your skin's texture is a concern, seek a pore-filling primer to even things out. As for application, Kassajikian says to focus the product on your T-zone, which tends to be the oiliest area, and where your most visible pores hang out. Then, wait until the primer has dried before going in with your powder foundation.
Not so complicated, right? Scroll on to find the best primers for powder foundation, according to your skin type and budget.
1. The Pro's Pick
Kassajikian’s go-to primer is the Urban Decay All Nighter Face Primer, which “smooths, primes and perfects while keeping your skin hydrated, so that the powder foundation lays down smooth and even without looking dry,” he says. But for a less expensive option, Kassajikian likes the NYX Studio Perfect Primer for its “silky formula that creates a really smooth surface.” Amazon reviewers love it for exactly that reason, too: “After I apply it to my face, my skin is SO smooth, I've never felt anything like it before. No moisturizer or any other product creates this silky effect,” commented one person, while another confirmed that it helps your makeup last “forever.” In addition to the clear formula pictured above, this primer comes in color-correcting green and lavender shades to neutralize any redness or yellowness in your skin, respectively.
2. The Best Primer For Dry Skin
Powder foundation can absolutely work for people with dry skin; you’ll just want to double down on your moisturizing products to ensure that the powder doesn’t go patchy on you. And this First Aid Beauty primer/moisturizer hybrid is the very definition of “doubling down on your moisturizing products.” In here, hyaluronic acid works to hydrate, plump, and smooth your skin, while redness-reducing aloe and colloidal oatmeal provide more soothing and hydrating benefits. This is a water-based primer, so it feels super comfortable on dry skin, though it still contains some dimethicone to create that tacky (but not sticky)“perfected” canvas for your powder foundation to cling to.
3. The Best Primer For Oily Skin
On the opposite end of the spectrum, powder foundation over primer-less oily skin (or a combination-skinned person’s T-zone) runs the risk of clumping. However! Recall that Kassajikian warns against using a mattifying primer with powder foundation, since really hardcore primers can make powders look overly dry and patchy. To work your way out of this pickle, try Honest Beauty’s matte primer. It’s water-based and oil-free for grease-free hydration, and it doesn’t contain any dimethicones whatsoever. Instead, micronized bamboo powder and silica, a powdered mineral, work to absorb excess oil and prep your skin for smooth, even makeup application. Meanwhile, antioxidant-rich black currant and raspberry extracts give your skin a little glow, sans grease. Follow it up with a mattifying setting spray if you're still looking a little shiny.
4. The Best Pore-Blurring Primer
If the size of your pores are your potential pitfall in the pursuit of powder foundation perfection (I hope you had as much fun reading that sentence as I did writing it), try a pore-filling primer, like this perennial best-seller from Maybelline. It won’t literally shrink your pores — nothing can — but it’ll spackle over them, blur them out, and generally make them less noticeable. As one Amazon reviewer wrote, “The difference is incredible and it lasts all day. My pores are virtually invisible.” This is chock-full of dimethicones, as all pore-filling primers are, so just a thin coat will do. Or, use it as a “spot treatment” only on the areas that could use a little extra blurring and smoothing.
5. The Best Prestige Primer
If you’re willing to splurge a little more on your primer, this one from Elizabeth Arden is a lovely choice. It covers all the bases of a good primer for powder foundation (or liquid, for that matter): Lightweight polymers provide a silky, creamy, but grippable surface for your makeup, and light-diffusing particles give your skin a soft-focused finish. It works on virtually all skin types, too. It’s oil-free and non-comedogenic, which is ideal for people with acne-prone skin; and time-released hyaluronic acid and hydrating botanicals help keep dry skin moisturized all day long.